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The Saint John's Bible

The Saint John's Bible was commissioned in 1998 by Saint John's Abbey and University in the USA. It is the first illuminated Bible to be commissioned by a Benedictine abbey in nearly 500 years.

Visit the Saint John's Bible website.

In 2012, ACU acquired a Heritage Edition of The Saint John’s Bible – a limited edition museum-quality reproduction, printed on custom-made cloth paper, featuring metallic illuminations, and bound in hand-embossed leather. Like the original, the Heritage Edition is in seven volumes and each measures two feet tall by three feet wide when open.

The acquisition of the Heritage Edition was largely due to the inspired decision and funding from Fr Anthony Casamento, ACU’s Director of Catholic Identity and Mission and the support of the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Greg Craven.

Fr Eric Hollas, OSB, a Benedictine monk and priest from Saint John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota, officially handed over the University’s set of books during a visit to the North Sydney Campus


'The Prophets' on display in the Melbourne campus chapel.

On October 9th, 2013, all six campuses simultaneously launched The Saint John's Bible.

Our Library News posts have more information:


The creation process

Who was responsible?

The Saint John's Bible is a collaboration between theologians headquartered in Minnesota, U.S.A., and a team of 20 artists under the direction of Donald Jackson, operating from his scriptorium, in Monmouth, Wales. Jackson, a renowned British calligrapher, is theofficial scribe and calligrapher to the Crown Office of the United Kingdom. The project fulfilled Jackson's childhood dream of creating a hand-written, illuminated bible.

The Creation Process

Photograph of artist materials, paints, brushes and stamps                                                   Photograph of a restorer working on a book

Image: Copyright © Michael Freeman, Michael Freeman Photography, London, England                         Image: Copyright Derek Evan, HUW Evans Agency, Cardiff, Wales

The pages of the original edition of The Saint John's Bible are made from calfskin or vellum, while artists used hand-cut quills from the feathers of geese, turkeys, and swans to inscribe the text.  Ink for the text is derived from Chinese ink sticks which are ground to a powder and combined with water. The vivid colours used to illustrate teh Bible are attained through crushing minerals and stones, which are then mixed with egg yolk and water to create paints. Illumination of the Bible is achieved through the application of gold leaf.

To find more about the materials and processes used in the production of the bible, please visit The Saint John's Bible website             

The project was commissioned by Saint John's Abbey and University in 1998 and completed in 2011. The Bible is comprised of seven volumes which were finished at various stages.


                                                                                     Photograph of a restorer working on artwork at an easel

                                     Image: Copyright Michael Freeman, Michael Freeman Photography, London, England

Books and videos



See the heritage edition

The seven volumes are distributed across the University. Each volume is housed in a custom-made cabinet. Current locations are:

Photograph of one of the bible volumes open on display

  • Pentateuch (v.1) - North Sydney Campus Library
  • Historical Books (v.2) – Strathfield Campus Library
  • Wisdom Books (v.3) – Libraries Directorate Office, Caroline Chisholm House
  • Psalms (v.4) –  Ballarat Campus Library
  • Prophets (v.5) – Melbourne Chapel
  • Gospels and Acts (v.6) – Canberra Campus Library
  • Letters and Revelations (v.7) – Brisbane Campus Library

All volumes can be seen within their display cabinets. However, if you would like to arrange an appointment to view a volume in more detail, please contact us.


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Last reviewed: 7 September 2020